(Author’s note: I was off last week as it was my birthday week. I had a lot of things to do, so I got to them. Now that things are starting to calm down, I can get back to more regular writing. Keep an eye on this website for possibly more longer-form stories. Otherwise, here’s today’s fictioneers… Note: The song is very important. Listen and enjoy.)
Auf Immer Und Ewig (Forever and Ever)
by Miles H. Rost
A craving that could never be sated.
Nick gazed out towards the horizon, passing a glance over the ocean as though it wasn’t there.
Every month, he’d come to that very spot, and look out. It was a therapy, his father would say, a way to heal from the scars of the past.
“I always go there,” he said to his best friend one day, “because I want to go back. I left her back there, and I want to be with her just once more.”
It was all he would say about his tour back in Vietnam.
Bart slowly scanned the large stretch of land in Eastern Oregon that he called home. The sun was approaching the horizon, bathing him in an eerie orange.
He bought the land with a major investment he made just after World War II. He did well with the cattle, until he sold them a month before. The sale put into a safe trust for his grandchildren, provided they took up a marketable trade.
He put his back to the rock, and watched the sun go down.
As his final breath left him, it was his last call.
(Author’s note: With the final part of my Korean experience finally complete, I now focus on the next phase of life. This means that Music and Fiction will likely get an upgrade/update in some way. Once I get settled back in a routine, this should happen. Until then, it’s Fictioneers and other stories I plan to write. Hope you enjoy today’s offering!)
(Author’s notes: Sorry for not being as productive lately. It’s been a really tough time here in the land down under, and because of all that’s going on, my attention has been on getting myself stable, then getting myself out of here. I want to thank each and every one of you for reading my stories the last two weeks and giving me great feedback. You all make me so proud. Here is today’s fictioneers story.)
“We’ve been coming to Dad’s grave for 14 years. I’m about to graduate. You never told me what happened to him.”
“I guess it is that time,” her mother sighed, sitting down next to the flat gravestone, “Your dad came back from the Gulf, and he wasn’t right. But he always told me he was, so I didn’t say much about it.”
Heidi slowly knelt down by her Mom.
“He never told anyone. He never told me!”
She started to sob. Heidi hugged her, tears flowing down her face.
“He was too stubborn to ask for help, and he took his life. He never truly made it home.”
“All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slavesor free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many.” – 1 Corinthians 12:11-14
“New Recruits, come forth!”
The man we all called P.S. was a commanding figure. He wasn’t a tall man by any stretch of the imagination. He was shorter than other warriors, but his voice and his spirit commanded attention. He was a slightly tanned man, looking to be of Asian descent. In spite of his shorter stature, he maintained his health well and looked formidable. He wore a dark blue tunic, and work trousers that were just a few shades of blue lighter. His buzz-cut hair symbolized the seriousness of his charge, of his role.
When those of us looked at him, as we moved forward to the “river area” in front of the stage, we could feel the atmosphere of authority flow off of him in waves. Even some of my fellow recruits were taken aback by the amount of authority that surged outward from this grand commander.
As we approached and was in front of where P.S. stood, I saw a familiar face. A fellow warrior from Antioch Division named Joseph was standing next to me, ready to receive the words that were about to come. Joseph was a man of great knowledge, and a man of prayer. He was able to talk the old language of machines, and could be of great use. He gave me and Tia a nod, as we stood there. The music that was playing before had died down, but was not out as our general started to speak.
“Our Father is rich in many different ways. I pray that each one of you recruits will be richly strengthened in the Spirit, so Christ may live within each of you.”
P.S. looked down towards each one of us, a mixture of compassion and stern military discipline in his steeled eyes.
“Each one of you have had to deal with being opposed in your faithful walk. You’ve been attacked by the devil! You’ve been told to stay when God wanted you to get moving, or vice versa. That’s when we gotta rely on the Spirit! That’s when we need to call on The Spirit, to give us reinforcement and strength. You are warriors, but warriors cannot fight when they’re deprived of the source of life.”
Tia lifted her hands to the sky, as I bent my head and opened my hands in front of me. Joseph raised his hands in front of him, parking them just in front of his shoulders.
“We need the grace and strength to continue to walk this walk of faith, to fight, to continue onward! No matter what tribe you’re from, what lands you may have been in before, you are here on this day! The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is absolutely critical to your success and endurance!”
P.S. paced on the stage in the way a General paces when they assess and exhort their troops.
“New Recruits, I can see that some of you were reluctant in accepting the training to become leaders. But understand that our Father is raising up an army from the dry bones of our old lives. He is fulfilling the promise of Ezekiel 37, to breathe his breath on the valley of dry bones, the people who haven’t been walking well in His grace.”
His voice started to lift and to quicken. It became more urgent, more focused, and with more force.
“It’s only when the spirit of God our Father enters into these dry bones, that they can stand up and begin to move. And I have some news for you, recruits! Those dry bones, the ones that God our Father is breathing into right now…they are you!”
The air around all of us new recruits started feeling heavy. The heaviness wasn’t a smothering type, but instead a thickness that felt strong and full of life. I perceived that Tia was being prepped in her spirit, as I could feel the displacement of air that signaled her arm’s movements. I could sense the placidity of Joseph, the calmness of the readying that he was receiving. I perceived my bent head, arms stretched but bent in front of me, with my hands out like a farmer praying for rain.
“We require the breath of God to continue our fight! To continue doing what we have been charged to do. Each one of you new recruits, open your hearts! Open yourself up to the life-giving breath of God!” P.S. said, the fire and steel in his voice rising with even more authority, “Commanders! Division commanders! Sergeants! Gunnies! Come up here and minister! Pray for these new recruits, officers! Help them receive what God wants to pour out on them!”
I could feel a great electricity in the air, a rushing spirit flowing around our legs and our heads like a raging river. I heard the voices of my fellow recruits rising up, urgent in their prayers and quickened in their pleading. My own prayers started coming forward in spurts, like it wanted to come rushing out but was behind some sort of a barrier. I couldn’t see anything, but I could hear and perceive what was happening around me, even through my own prayers to my Father.
I heard the voices of my fellow warriors around me. I could hear the cries of Tia, the pleading and the laughter in her voice as she continued praying. I recognized the voices of various sergeants and commanders as they walked around.
I didn’t count how long it was, but I felt a hand on my head. My hands were out and in a receiving mode, and I heard the voice of someone praying out loud and in earnest. I couldn’t make out the words very well, and after a short time, he left. Shortly thereafter, another hand was placed on my head, in the back. I recognized the sound of my mentor, Brian. He was there for a short time, but also left. I felt all of this and heard all of this, but I did not see a single thing.
Suddenly, I felt a white heat on my ears. I felt a great sound fill my ears. I could feel and hear the sound of Miguel, the leader of the Freedom Division Martial Band praying over me, but it was at a great distance. The heat spread to over my eyes, and I felt a greater voice fall upon my being.
“Kneel, and receive.”
A great weight fell on my shoulders, and it felt like it had a strength that was inhuman. I knew it wasn’t from Miguel, and I had no choice but to fall to one knee.
Suddenly, a flash came to my mind. A flash of a memory. A memory of kneeling by my bed, praying for my classmates, praying for my mother, and more.
“Knight. You are a warrior,” the great voice said, “You were a prayer warrior a long time ago, my son.”
It finally clicked. The gears and the mechanics finally hit the top of the hour in my head. My Father was talking to me.
“You have come this way, Knight. Your path has taken you here. Now, pick up the mantle you were given.”
Before I could even ask the question out loud, the answer came.
“I commissioned you as a prayer warrior in the past. Continue it, son, from this day on.”
I could say nothing except “Thank you, Lord,” repeatedly.
As my eyes and ears calmed from the meeting with Father, P.S. gave the signal that all was clear with us. It would take a few minutes, but slowly I was able to get up and walk to my seat, balancing myself with the edge of the stage.
I sat back on the wooden half-log bench, taking in sharp breaths, as Tia smiled down.
“What were you feeling, Knight? What was it you were feeling?”
I looked up at her, as I was heaving breaths and getting in a lot of air.
“I know what my role is. The training I have done in the past in the Western Lands, everything that led up to today, has been to give me back the role I had.”
Tia looked at him, hands out and eye open, as if she was saying “What was it?!?!”
“I’m in the Prayer regiment. I’m a prayer warrior”
Tia laughed heartily and beamed after hearing that, giving me a hearty slap on the back. I coughed, but felt happy because of what happened. I then asked her how she felt.
“Me? I felt…” she paused, thinking back a second, “…I guess I felt joy. A joy in freedom. Like I didn’t have all this baggage hanging around and dragging me down. I felt light, not only physical light, but also light weight. Like I didn’t have to worry about anything.”
This was something new. Something I never experienced before. Hearing people have their burden lifted, and me getting my new marching orders. From God, the Great General, no less. As I was thinking about this, suddenly we heard a scratching up on the stage.
“This gathering, warriors, is one where not only do we learn about ourselves and our Father, but we also learn about tactics and strategy here. And we have some visitors from the Western Lands, who traveled here to speak with all of us about things…”
That night was a full blur of so many different things, that we had to take more notes. For a good long while into the dusky night, we listened and learned. We rejoiced, we prayed, we were called forth, and we were even given release from problems that were affecting us.
Even I received release from the disappointments in my life. Me, Knight, the one who always worried and expected the worst case scenario, now was released from the old disappointments and was brought into the light of truth and confidence.
The thing is…this was not the only big thing that happened at this gathering. There was one more event that totally blew me away.
The Gathering, Part A: The Introduction
(Story IV-A in the Warrior Series)
by Miles H. Rost
(NOTE: If you’re interested in the previous three chapters of the Warrior Series, please go to these links: Part 1 – Unstoppable God, Invincible; Part II – Ambushed By Myself; Part III – Dull Swords. Also, please make sure to play the music at the appropriate spots. Finally, a warning that this is going to be long and have lots of description. It may be split. Be forwarned. -Miles)
“”Seven days you shall celebrate a feast to the LORD your God in the place which the LORD chooses, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful. Three times a year all your men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the Lord empty-handed.” – Deuteronomy 16:15-16
It was here. The moment that we all had been waiting for.
We had traveled many days to get to the location. A long journey, going around various obstacles to the appointed place and time. We encountered many wagon trains, ox-carts and other sort of sundry delays. The time in which we were to go to the gathering was also a big time for many of the other people of the lands to celebrate their own festivals. Many of us were tired already when going there.
I was riding in the back of an ox-cart with two people who I befriended a long time ago when I was in the Sunlight Lands, far far to the south. They traveled many weeks, after receiving my note by carrier that this gathering was happening. The simple reply of the note was “We. Are. In.”
Cassie was a woman of stout resolution, with a playful yet sometimes stubborn streak. Even a broken leg didn’t hamper her efforts to get to our camp and travel onward. Further, she brought with the joyous Clarissa, a woman whose humor was considered legendary if not disarming. And we all ended up in the back of an ox-cart, traveling over bumps and rocks on the way.
After a couple of days in transit, we finally crested the last hill. We gazed upon the area where we would be gathering, and our mouths dropped in awe. The area were we arrived was incredibly beautiful. We spotted the main stage and areas up on top of a gently sloped but wide hill in the middle of the valley. This hill, as the locals told us, was called “Medicine Hill” in their language. They stated that the hill is where healing and rest was given to travelers through the land a long time ago, though it was only recently that it was being used for gatherings like this.
We noticed farther back from the hill, a giant lodge was tucked into the mountain lobes at the back base of the mountains. The lodge and adjoining houses would easily fit the entire congregation that was going to arrive, a seemingly massive complex that made us wonder what it would be like. We’ve been living in tents for a while, so having actual lodging was going to be quite different.
“It’s been 10 long years since I’ve been at a gathering,” I told Cassie, who was sitting up at the back of the cart with her leg stretched out in a brace, “I have no clue what to expect, and with everything happening lately, I am hoping some good stuff comes.”
“Things will do fine. There’s no reason to just hope. You’ve gone through a lot lately, and this is a way to process everything.”
Our caravan passed through a checkpoint, where a group of very hardy warriors searched the carts. Not only was this gathering well planned, but it was going to be well guarded as well. This made a few of us relax a bit more, as we descended the ridge into the hill valley below.
When we finally arrived at the lodge, we were given our orders as to where we were to stay. As per the custom of our warrior faction, men and women were separated unless they were married. I was to lodge in a modest lodge-hut with 5 other men, including one of my troopmates, Kazoyen.
A man of solid stature, and agile on his feet, Kazoyen was in a division of our forces, a division that dealt with fancy footwork and presentation that would distract and intimidate. They were kind of like our own version of ninjas. However, he would often be with our branch during the important struggles and enjoyed serving alongside us. He also knew where to forage for the best of our foods at camp.
“Hey, Kaz! It’s been a while! How’s the training with the crew?”
Kaz smiled back, as he put his stuff down in one of the bunks. He was sweating, which means he was likely done with a practice session.
“Doing well, Knight. We’ve been practicing three different footworks, and we’ll be presenting one of them this gathering.”
“I hope you’re not thinking about dropping a surprise on us. I heard that one of our leaders will be doing something crazy, as well.”
“Carlton. Leader of the Harbor Crew.”
“Isn’t he known for doing crazy stuff every gathering?”
I chuckled, more out of unsurity than actual knowledge.
“You’d probably know more than me. I haven’t been to a gathering in so long. That was way back when I was in the Western Lands.”
“Ah! I forgot about that. You’re still a bit new to our gatherings,” he replied, while scratching the front of his beard.
“That’s okay. I hope to be fully initiated by the time the gathering has finished.”
After swapping out pleasantries, and getting our things unloaded, we both went out to the main stage at the top of Medicine Hill. Even though our caravan came in non-descriptly, I knew that other major groups would not be so understated. I also knew that this would be something I would want to see.
As both of us reached the top of the hill, we both saw Ilya. Besides him was Erika, his wife. They were standing amidst the makeshift chairs and benches, looking off towards one of the three main gates. We walked up, and I gave Ilya a slap on the back.
“How’s it going, sir?”
“Ah! Knight! Things are good. How has training gone?”
I hesitated, drawing a sharp breath through my teeth.
“Well, I have a lot of work to do. My handling is sloppy, and it doesn’t help that my sword is balanced right, but that I am not.”
“It’s okay. You’ve been out of the saddle for a while, so it’s going to take a while to get your bearings together.”
I looked over to Erika and smiled.
“Erika, how are things going with you?”
“They’ve been really well. It’s interesting when you are waiting to see what will happen. I have a feeling that this gathering is going to be very special.”
“I’m not sure, Knight. I just have this feeling that there will be lots of revelations, that there will be a time of change for some of us. I also heard we’re getting some special visitors coming in from a land far away.”
I gave her a raised eyebrow, and gave her a querying look.
“You mean, you didn’t hear about the small contingent that’s been forming down in Mill Stream?”
“Mill Stream? You mean, the city with all those artists and creative type folks?”
“Yep! The same ones. Apparently, there’s a very small band of warriors who are coming up to join us for the Gathering.”
“Who are they going to be doubling up with when they get up here?”
“The Harbor Division. They already met them a week ago, and they’re on the way up.”
I was about to give a response, when we heard a loud horn blow. It sounded deep and guttural, but beautiful. I ran over to the side of the hill’s plateau and looked towards the southwest. Almost immediately as I recognized the caravan that came in, I bust out laughing.
Carrying the red and blue colors of their army, the Harbor Division rode in relatively quickly. Their commander, a hardy commander named Carlton, was standing with his second commander, who also was his wife, Mari. She was blowing on what looked like a didgeridoo, as he was standing like a captain. He had one leg bent, while the other was straight. He had what looked to be a yellow-colored wig on and what I could only assume as a sports jersey of some sort. As the rest of the caravan came in, he started playing what looked to be Spanish bagpipes. I could recognize the music he was playing instantly, and it just made things all the more hilarious. It was a spectacle that was likely not to be topped by any other caravan, as the Harbor Division was known for being on the humorous and outlandish side of the warrior spectrum.
I laughed heartily, until I could barely even breathe. Erika and Ilya were getting ready for me, in case I keeled over from laughing too much. After a few moments of gathering my breath, I stood again, ready to see more of the main caravan.
However, as the caravan finished passing through the gates, I noticed a blue standard with red and white stars following behind. I tapped Ilya on the shoulder and pointed, asking him which one that was.
“Oh, that’s the Mill Stream and Southern Harbor divisions. They’re currently under one banner while the Mill Stream folk get their training done.”
They were a small continent, all on one big wagon, but they were waving their standard with gusto. I realized that I absolutely must meet these people before the Gathering finished.
A movement out of the corner of my eye caught my attention, and I turned towards the western gate.
While quieter than the Harbor Division, the Forest Division were still a force to be reckoned with. The contingent was about the same size, maybe a slight bit smaller than the Harbor Division, but the deep green and blue of their standard was unmistakable. The commander, a slim man who carried respect and authority, stood atop the main wagon. Everyone simply referred to him as “Mikhail”, even though he did not look Russian at all. He held onto the hand of his second commander, who everyone simply called “Dream”. From the stories I was told of, she was someone who knew about the power of dreams, and many of our contingent spoke of her with high regard.
The contingent came in at a moderate pace, not looking at a lot of pomp and circumstance, but looking quite humble. It was as if respect was the main characteristic for their branch. They were the understated of all the divisions, but the power they held in their ranks was formidable. It would be foolish for any enemy to underestimate their resolve; that much was evident.
As both of the caravans cleared their respective gates, I turned my attention to the northern gate, where I heard the ringing of a bell. This was the newly re-christened Antioch Division. The bright yellow on their flags contrasted the deep blue also found on them. Being the largest division, they had the longest caravan. This was the flagship Division, the one from which all the others came. They had a lot to overcome in recent months, and the taking of Fort Antioch was a turning point for them.
At the front of the caravan was the commander of the division, and the major general to the entire group of divisions. No one has ever heard his real name, but everyone always just referred to him as “P.S.” To those who would look at him, they would think that he was a more rigid of a leader. But, once a person got to know him, they would see the humor come out almost quickly.
At his right hand was his wife, the brigadier general of the division that everyone just called “P.I.” Legends stated that she was given a heavenly blessing at the last Gathering, a memorable blessing, and that she had been taking time off. It wasn’t expected until the last day when in transit we found out she was going to be arriving. Needless to say, I was very excited that she was going to be around, as her words were very powerful.
The entire Antioch Division was a mix of all sorts of soldiers and warriors. There were so many different mixes, there was no way to really put in a theme or category for them. Which made them a category of their own, in certain ways. In the back of the caravan, I could hear crying out the words of someone that sounded very Latin or Spanish. She kept crying out behind her as the gate closed, and I looked to Kaz to find out what she was saying.
“Do you know?”
“I’m not sure, my romantic languages are rusty, but I think she’s saying ‘You do not come back to my house making noise with your pesky dancing shoes’. ”
My eyebrow went up, as I sat and thought about what was just said. I decided to file it away in my mind until later, hopefully to find out what it meant.
Last, but not least, I saw my crew. Coming through the western gate was our division, the Freedom Division. The caravan had our commander, Morgan, smiling and some small movements that one might have called dancing. He looked like a man who would have fun, and knowing him like I did, I knew he was a fun guy. I also knew that he took business seriously, which made the fun image a bit more unique.
I continued to look at the caravan, with Kaz, Ilya, and Erika giving waves to all those who came in. We waved at our compadres, who were looking around the gated compound with eyes full of wonder. Chesley and Siobhan were the first to see us, and they waved with bright, broad smiles on their faces. Brian and Kristi were guarding the middle. Brian kept watching around the caravan, while Kristi seemed to be jumping up and down with joy.
As all the caravans got into their places, I returned to our lodge with Kaz. He had to go and practice, but we would talk later. I decided to take a nap, in order to get things together for the night to come.
Five hours later, while still tired, I awoke in time to hear the call to gather. Putting on my cleanest garments, I rushed out of the lodge to join my brothers and sisters in the Gathering.
I got up the side of the hill, and I was met by Chelsey, who was bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet.
“Knight! You made it! Tia’s been looking for you. She wants you to join her up front!”
“Up front? Well, it’s where I usually am for the monthly mini-gatherings. I may as well! Care to lead, sis?”
She beamed up at me, and walked me over to where Tia had taken a seat. Tia looked up at me, and gave me a bright smile. She jumped up to give me a hug, grinning broadly.
“Are you ready for this, Knight? Are you ready?”
“Uh…I hope so. It’s been 10 years since, and I really don’t remember how this all works. But I’ll do my best.”
“You’re gonna do fine! You’ve got the Spirit in ya, and that means everything.”
“Are you sure? I’m old hat. I’ve not done a lot of the stuff that you all have done before. I mean, I have danced…”
“Knight, don’t worry. Old and young have no worries. There are folks here approaching 50 who will go crazy in worship for our Lord. The optics are nothing, just pour it out and worship extravagantly.”
I was about to respond when we heard the call. We heard the voice of the second head of the martial corps, a lady of small stature but large heart whose name I had forgotten. She was one of the leaders of the Antioch Division’s martial corps, and they were ready to get us moving.
“People! Warriors! Let us rise to give praise to our Father! We have a lot of good things happening tonight, so let us prepare our hearts to give praise and receive His grace!”
As we started singing, I felt all of the self-consciousness start to slip away. Like dirt that was being washed away, all of the old thoughts started to drip off. The self-consciousness of many years, the worries about whether things were authentic, doubt, fear, all dripping off like water off armor. The beat poured into each and every heart in the assembly. While I could feel what all was going on around me, all of the sounds and feelings faded away until it was just myself, dancing and singing to my Lord.
In a glance, I was able to look around at so many different folks. Different warriors from the different division, all worshiping in their own ways. I saw a few fighters bouncing and jumping, and even one doing backflips. It was truly a show of freedom. I even saw Brian, my mentor and accountability brother, calling on his roots in his dancing. This was a blessed event, indeed. And this was only the first song.
We spent many minutes in worship, using movements that showed our reverence and thanks for His grace and his presence. I could easily see all of the warrior, all our divisions, their spirit becoming stronger with each bar.
Even as the music transitioned into slower musics down the line, the devotion that each warrior showed was incredible. Battle hardened warriors giving their all in worship. I saw Tia, sitting on the ground, raising her hands with her eyes closed. She exuded a peaceful, yet glorious reverence for our Lord.
After a good while of praise and worship for our God, we all saw P.S. walk up onto the stage area. Many of us moved to go back to our seats, when we heard him cry out.
“Stay! Let us continue to celebrate! I call for the new recruits of our divisions to come forward.”
As I started walking towards the front of the stage area, I didn’t know what to expect. I was a new recruit, but I knew that there was so much that I had yet to learn. I did not know whether I would be reproved for my failure, or whether I would have been rewarded, or even whether I would be passed over.
All of us, a great multitude, just stood with our eyes closed. We would be listening to what P.S. had to say, but we would also be spending more time in communion with the Great General himself.
I remember the day that Travis was called to duty. It was going to be a 6 month tour in Jordan.
He looked at me, a lowly young lady from the wrong side of the tracks, and gave me the most heartfelt kiss that a fiancee could give.
We stood by an old stump as we said our goodbyes. I told him, “I don’t care how you get back here, just get back here if you can.”
He was returning from Jordan as the frost on the fields was slowly retreating. I would never see him again, though.
His C-130 got caught in a downdraft, and crashed at the base. No survivors.
He did get back here, I just can’t hold him anymore.
– From the diary of Charlene MacGinnis
(Story behind the song: During the first Gulf War, the song “Get Here” by Oleta Adams, a remake of a similar song by Brenda Russell, was often played as a call to servicemen from their wives and kids.)